Loving Gifted Children

June 7, 2016

by Jennifer de la Haye, Program Coordinator

Tasked with the mission of writing a blog post, I pondered IEA’s 2016 theme, “Finding and Cultivating Your Voice.” Turning to Thomas Merton, to whom I often turn whilst seeking inspiration, I found this: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” While we all should strive to develop our intuitions, seek self-understanding, and learn to trust and respect ourselves, how do we help our loved ones – friends, family members, children, and students – cultivate their voices?

By loving them.

One of my best friends is incredibly adept at asking profound questions – the kinds of questions that force you to delve into your mind and unravel swirling thoughts that haven’t yet been formed into words. She listens deeply. Her questions are meant to elicit answers that help her get to know bits of you that might be unwittingly hidden or unobvious. She loves by listening, by paying attention, and by finding ways to personalize her encouragement. She is a gifted person, and her intuition is powerful. She uses her intuition to discern needs in her friends, and she meets those needs creatively, often by appealing to specific senses of humor. As her friend, I have found her questions and personalized moments of encouragement, helpful in my own quest for self-understanding. She draws me out of myself, and as she is learning about bits of me, I learn just as much.

As a new mother, I hope to use these tactics as I get to know my daughter while she grows. At six months, her personality is already beginning to emerge – she approaches the world with a certain whimsy, her face alights when she connects with people, and she loves to sing and twist her hands in the air in front of her face. And this is only the beginning. I hope to love her by listening, watching, and seeking to understand her, then finding ways to help her cultivate her strengths and understand her weaknesses as they are, not as I wish them to appear.

Giftedness, while acting as a common bond between those who share it, also manifests in different and intricate ways. As we work to help gifted young people find their voices, we remember that the giftedness of each child is unique, and we do not expect anyone to fit perfectly into a gifted framework that aligns with a particular expectation or understanding of how giftedness should appear. I think of the children at Yunasa – some of them experience deep reverence for nature, their imaginations and spirits alight during guided visualizations, and they have stunning intuitions.  Others hesitate to connect with psychosynthesis, but they are able to decipher, without struggle, the foreign language of coding or advanced mathematics.  Some arrive at camp and immediately engage in captivating conversations about politics, physics, and literature. Others feel trapped inside themselves, longing to connect but confused as to how. To love these children, we honor their uniqueness and meet them where they are.  We engage them in ways that help them to learn about themselves, and we listen.

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Jennifer de la Haye obtained a B.A. in English with a creative writing emphasis from California State University, Long Beach. She spent time as a freelance writer and customer service representative before arriving at IEA. Jennifer is thrilled to contribute to an organization that nurtures and provides guidance for gifted youth, whose earnest curiosity and relationship with the world around them she finds inspiring and delightful. She especially enjoys working at IEA because she is constantly learning, likes and respects her colleagues, and finds value in contributing to an organization she admires.

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